Crop Cultivation
  • Cotton is grown on a variety of soils ranging from well drained deep alluvial soils in the north to black clay soils of varying depth in central region and in black and mixed black and red soils in south. Cotton is semi-tolerant to salinity and sensitive to water logging and thus prefers well- drained soils.
  • In southern and central India where cotton is a rainfed crop, deep ploughing is recommended to destroy perennial weeds once in 4-5 years. The field is prepared by repeated ploughing with a blade harrow with the onset of pre- monsoon rains. In red soils of south having poor moisture retention, field is given 2-3 light ploughings after harvesting.
  • The time available for land preparation following the harvest of wheat is limited in the north India. The field is irrigated after the harvest of wheat and ploughed. Thereafter a light irrigation is provided and the field is ploughed and the soil is planked with a wooden plank.
  • The availability of herbicides for weed management has opened up options for reduced tillage and residue management which are more energy efficient and have an ameliorative effect on soil quality.
Sowing Time/Season
  • The sowing season of cotton varies considerably from tract to tract and is generally early (April-May) in north India and is delayed as we proceed to down south. Cotton is a kharif crop in the major parts of the country viz. Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and parts of Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka. In these areas, the irrigated crop is sown from March-May and the rainfed crop in June-July with the commencement of the monsoon. The pre-monsoon dry sowings, practiced in parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh in the end of May or in early June have been found to give an early start with the resultant increased yields.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, the major portion of the irrigated and rainfed crop is planted in June-July with the commencement of rain. In parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the desi cotton is usually sown in August-September. In addition, summer sowings in Tamil Nadu are done during February- March. The sowings of cotton in the rice fallows of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu extend from the second half of December to the middle of January.
Cropping Pattern/Cropping System
The type of cropping system adopted i.e. monocropping, mixed cropping, intercropping and rotation / sequence cropping is dependent upon the amount and distribution of rainfall, length of growing season and type of soil (Table-1).
Dominant cotton based cropping systems in different states
States Promising Cropping Systems
Andhra Pradesh Monocropped cotton, Cotton-Rice (sequence), Cotton-Chilli or Cotton- Tobacco (two year rotations)
Karnataka Monocropped cotton, Cotton-Wheat, intercropping with chilli, groundnut, blackgram, green gram.
Tamil Nadu Monocropped cotton, Rice-Cotton, Rice- Rice-Cotton. Cotton- jowar, Cotton-Pulse- Jowar, intercropping with onion, groundnut and black grarn.
Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan Cotton-Wheat; Cotton-Mustard
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra , Gujarat, Monocropped cotton, cotton-jowar (two and year rotation), intercropping with black gram, green gram, soybean, groundnut and red gram.
States Promising Intercropping Systems
Andhra Pradesh Cotton + green gram (1:1)
Karnataka Cotton + coriander (paired row)
Maharashtra Cotton + soybean (1:1) or Cotton + green gram (1:3) or Cotton+ radish (1:1)
Madhya Pradesh Cotton+ soybean (1:2)
  • The common traditional practice of cotton cultivation in many parts of south and central India is strip cropping of 1 or 2 rows of pigeonpea after every 8-10 rows of cotton, 3-5 rows of ragi with 1 row of cotton.
Crop Rotation
It was proved beyond doubt that it is advisable to avoid growing cotton continuously in the same fields and proper crop rotation is a must, which has numerous advantages. Hence, crop rotation is another agronomic practice which should be followed preferably with legumes and oil seeds.
Seed Selection
It is recommended to use only certified and treated seed which is location specific and ideally suitable variety/hybrid. Varieties/hybrids which are pest and disease resistant/tolerant have to be selected. However in organic farming stress is being given on the on farm seed production and preservation. For seed purpose identify vigorously growing healthy plants, free from insect, pests and diseases. Use appropriate grading machines to obtain uniformity in size and weight of the seeds. Drying of seeds in sun is very essential to obtain moisture level below 8% for seed preservation.
Pre Cultivation Practices
As cotton is a deep rooted crop, it requires at least one deep tilling upto 8 to 10 inches and one shallow tilling. Application of 2.00 tonne of well decomposed FYM/compost per acre or 1-2 tonne of vermicompost per acre mixed with 2kg PSB (Phosphorous Solubilizing Bacteria) per acre is recommended during last tilling.
Seed Rate, Spacing and Population
The plant population and geometry varies with the plant architecture, soil fertility status, soil moisture holding capacity and variety / hybrid of cotton. Closer spacing is recommended for dwarf compact short duration varieties. (Table-2). Gap filling should be done 10 days after sowing. Extra seeds should be utilized for gap filling. Raise the seedling for gap filling in polybags. Fill the gaps during rainy season. Excess seedlings should be removed within three weeks, retaining 2 plants per hill in case of varieties, one plant per hill in case of hybrids. Plant population between 7 to 8 thousands per hectare is optimum.
Recommended seed rate, spacing and population for different species of cotton in the India
Species Growing conditions Part of India Seed rate (Kg. /ha.) Spacing (Cm) Population (Per ha.)
G.hirsutum Irrigated North 20-22 75 x 15 88,900
South 10-15 75 x 30 44,444
75 x 45 29,629
Central 18-20 60 x 30 55,600
South 18-20 60 x 30 55,600
G.arboreum Irrigated North 10-12 60 x 30 55,600
Central 10-12 60 x 30 55,600
G.herbaceum Rainfed Central 12-15 45 x 30 74,074
South 12-15 60 x 30 55,600
G.barbadense Irrigated South 8-10 90 x 30 37,000
12-15 75 x 30 44,444
Hybrids Irrigated South 2-3 90 x 30 37,000
45 x 60 37,037
90 x 60 18,518
Central 2-3.5 120 x 40 20,833
120 x 60 13,888
North 3-3.5 67.5 x 67.5' 21,948
Rainfed Central 3-3.5 150 x 60 11,111
South 2.5-3 120 x 60 13,888
Seed Treatment
For acid delinting, seed should be treated with 80-l00 ml H2 SO4 per 1 kg of seed for 2-3 minutes followed by thorough washing with water 2-3 times and to remove the acid, it should be washed with lime to neutralize. Seed dressing with appropriate insecticide, Imidachloprid 70 WS @ 5 g/kg or Thiomethoxam 70 WS @ 4g/kg. Seed treatment with Plantomycin / Paushamycin l00 mg + carboxin 1 g/l of water and allow soaking for 6-8 hrs and then shade dry.
Seed Rate and Sowing
Cotton is sown using tractor or bullock drawn seed drill or by dibbling. Hand dibbling of seeds at recommended spacing is commonly practiced in rainfed areas particularly for hybrids. This system ensures proper plant stand, uniform geometry and saves seeds. Later, the crop is thinned to the recommended population.
Time of Sowing:
Sowing time for cotton varies considerably in different cotton growing areas (Table-3).
Sowing time for the three cotton growing zones
Part of India Optimum Sowing Time
Irrigated Rainfed
South 15th April - 15th August in Karnataka, August in winter irrigated tract of ' Tamil Nadu, Jan-Feb in'rice fallows of A.P. and Tamil Nadu. 15th July - 15th August in Guntur, Kurnool, Prakasham districts of A.P, Mid Sept. to 1st week of October in black soil area of Tamil Nadu.
Central 15th-23rd May in'Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. With onset of monsoon 16th-30th June in Maharashtra.
North Middle of May Non Existent
Soil Fertility Management
Climatic factors like rainfall and temperature, soil factors like soil type, depth, pH, EC, CaCO3 content and organic matter, crop factors like sequence, and plant factors like genotype and duration determine the nutrient requirement of cotton. Organic manure is added once in 2-3 years in central and southern India but this is seldom-practiced in north India.
Inter Cultivation and Weed Management
Inter-cultivation is done fairly regularly by either a blade harrow with a three lined hoe or a desi plough. In the crop sown by broadcasting, one or two hand hoeings are given to remove weeds; inter-cultivation not only checks the growth of weeds but also leads to better soil aeration and soil moisture conservation. Weeds compete with cotton crop for nutrients, light and moisture. Cotton is susceptible to weed competition from sowing to about 70 days until the canopy covers the interspaces. Cotton yields are reduced by 50 to 85%, if weed growth is unchecked. Fluchloralin or Pendimethalin @ 1 kg ai/ha. as pre-plant incorporation with one hand weeding and crosswise hoeing has been recommended for satisfactory weed control. Deep rooted perennial weeds are removed by summer ploughing. The thinning of the cotton crop is a special feature of the irrigated crop sown on ridges in Peninsular India and in parts of southern Gujarat. Thinning is desirable for maintaining the optimum population of plants to obtain high yield. During thinning, the vigorous seedlings are retained and weak seedlings and off types are removed.
Irrigation and Water Requirement
Cotton cannot tolerate water logging and prolonged drought leading to soil moisture stress. Adequate drainage provision is a must, especially for vertisols during periods of continuous rains (October-November). After monsoon rains, the soils should be frequently harrowed to prevent deep cracking and loss of soil moisture from sub-soil.
In the case of irrigated cotton, earthing up should be done with blade harrows after fertilizer application to provide adequate drainage and to facilitate water application. Irrigation intervals depend on soil type and distribution of rainfall. Care should be taken to maintain adequate available soil moisture soon after fertilizer application, blooming and boll formation. In all, about 3 irrigations may be adequate for vertisols and 5 for alfisols for kharif.
The first irrigation should be given about one month after sowing and the subsequent ones at interval of two or three weeks. The crop must not be allowed to suffer for want of water during the flowering and fruiting stages, otherwise a lot of shedding of flowers and bolls will take place resulting in low yield. Cotton during its early growth is very sensitive to water stagnation. Therefore, drain out the stagnant water, if such a situation arises. To hasten boll opening give the last irrigation by the end of September.
Cotton is a deep rooted crop and essentially a drought tolerant crop as it draws moisture from deeper layers of soil. It cannot tolerate continuous rains or long spells of dry weather. Cotton requires atleast 500 mm of water to grow a crop of minimum acceptable yields. A well distributed precipitation of 650-750 mm is normally sufficient for raising a good cotton crop. Flowering and boll development stages are most critical periods to moisture stress. Hence, irrigation is essential at these stages, alternate furrow irrigation is better than each furrow irrigation and flat bed irrigation for minimizing water use. Scheduling of irrigations in cotton depends on soil type, crop growth, cultural practices and climatic conditions. Rainfed cotton yields are low due to erratic and uneven distribution of rainfall during crop season. Studies on water requirement of cotton indicated that the crop requires moderate quantities upto 75 days after germination while the water stress is more from 75 to 120th day during peak bloom period. Sowing dates should be adjusted in such a way that the period of adequate moisture availability coincides with the peak requirement of cotton crop. Moisture stress at 75 and 90 DAS results in premature flower drop, boll shedding, poor development of bolls, low ginning percentage and ultimately low yields.
Fertilizer Application
Integrated nutrient management schedules with a part of chemical fertilizers supplemented by farm wastes (including FYM), crop residues and bio-fertilizers and green manure are also being worked out. The fertilizer doses and method of application recommended for cotton in different parts of India are given in Table 4.
Fertilizer doses and method of application recommended for cotton crop in different parts of India
Cultural Practices North India' Central India South India
Fertilizers N-60-100 kg/ha.' P and K dose as per soil test. No. P '' need be applied if previous wheat received / recommend P dose. 5.5 kg. Zn/ ha. as ZnSo4 once in two cotton-wheat cycles N:P: K 40-20-20, 50-25-25,80-40-40 (100-50-50, 160-80-80, 240-120-120, for hybrids) N : P : K 40-20-20, 60-30-30, 90-45-45 (100-50-50,120-60-60, 150-60-60 for hybrids.
Method of fertilizer application i) Half N at thinning and' remaining at first ''' flowering;'
ii) Half N at sowing time'' in late sown crop;'
iii) Foliar application of N' if needed;
P to be drilled at sowing.
N in three splits at sowing, squaring and peak flowering stages. (P & K according to soil test). Application of 2% urea or DAP at flowering and early boll development. N at squaring and peak flowering, P & K at sowing. In Karnataka entire NPK at planting (rainfed cotton), Half N and entire P & K at planting, remaining N at flowering (irrigated cotton). N in 4 splits
in irrigated hybrid cotton.
Bio-fertilizer Seed treatment with azotobacter is beneficial. Seed and soil treatment with' Azospirillium in Tamil Nadu.
Important Pests and Diseases and Their Management
Cotton is attacked severely by a number of insect pests. The important ones are jassids, aphids, thrips, whiteflies and bollworms (Pink, spotted and American) and Spodoptera. For management of sucking pests Methlydemeton @ 2 MVI should be sprayed. For the management of whiteflies neem product @ 2.5 1/ha) or neern seed kernel extracts (5%) may be sprayed. In case of severe infestation, Triasophos @ 600-800 ml/ha should be sprayed. During flowering period, Endosulfan, chlorpyriphos or Quinalphos (2.5 l/ha) should be sprayed for the management of bollworms. Moreover, the insecticides should be sprayed only when the population of insect pests is beyond economic threshold level Table-5
Action threshold level for cotton insects
Insect ETL
Aphids 10 aphids / plant or 50 % Plants infested.
Jassids More than 2 jassids / leaf
Whiteflies 8-10 adults / leaf or 20 nymphs / leaf (minimum of 30 leaves)
Thrips 10 thrips / leaf or 15-20% infested plants
Spotted bollworm 10% incidence on fruiting bodies
Pink bollworm --do--
American Bollworm --do-- or 20 eggs / 20 plants or larvae / 20 plants.
The insecticides should be sprayed as per the recommended doses (Table 6). Insecticide resistance has been observed in some insects, hence proper selection of insecticides is must for managing the insect pests. HNPV should be used to manage Helicoverpa during early stages. Synthetic pyrethroids should not be used more than twice and be alternated with other conventional insecticides. As the resistance level to synthetic pyrethroids in American bollworm is very high, their use should be avoided during peak Helicoverpa infestation. However, synthetic pyrethroids are still effective against pink and spotted bollworms.
Management of insect pests and diseases
S.No Insect/ Disease Management Practices
1 Insect Pests
Jassids, Aphids Methyldemeton or Dimethoate @ 400-600 ml/ha. should be sprayed.
Thrips Endosulfan @ 1.5 litre / ha. should be sprayed.
Whiteflies Triazophos @600-800 ml/ha or Neemproduct @ 2.5 litre/ha. should be sprayed
Bollworms One spray of either Endosulfan, Chlorpyriphos or Quinalphos@ 2.5 litre/ ha, one spray of syntheticpyrethroids (10 EC) @ 500 ml/ha and HNPV@ 250 LE/ha. should be sprayed. Or Spinosad - 0.3ml/l or Emamectin Benzoate-0.5g/l or Novaluron- 1ml/l or Lufenuron- 1ml/l of water is sprayed.
2 Disease
Bacterial blight Spray with streptocycline (0.01%)
Fungal leaf spots Copperoxychloride (0.25%) spray
Grey mildew Spray wettable sulphur (0.2%) or carbenilazim (0.1%)
Boll rot Copperoxychloride or carbendazim should be sprayed along with recommended insecticide
Root Rot Drench the plants in affected patch with carbendazim (0.1%). Inter crop with mothbean in such area. ZnSO4 @ 24 Kg/ha should be applied in soil.
Fusarium and Verticillium wilts Grow recommended resistantvarieties.
Leaf Curl Spray recommended insecticide for thecontrol of whitefly, Grow desi cotton and resistant varieties like LRK-516, LRK-5166, RS875, LHH-144.
Cotton suffers from a number of diseases. The important ones are bacterial blight, leaf spots caused by alternaria and myrothecium, grey mildew, boll rots, fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, root rot and leaf curl virus. In the areas where the bacterial blight appears in severe form acid delinted seeds should be treated with Streptocycline (0.01%) before sowing. Later a foliar spray of a combination of Streptocycline (0.011%) and Copperoxychloride (0.25%) should be given when the disease starts appearing. Copperoxychloride is effective against fungal leaf spots too. Grey mildew is managed with the use of wettable sulphur (0.2%) or carbendazim (0.1%).
For the management of boll rots, Copperoxychloride or carbendazim should be sprayed along with the insecticides. Fusarium and verticillium wilts are best managed by growing recommended resistant varieties in the wilt affected areas.
In an area where root rot occurs regularly, seeds should be treated with carbendazim @ 2-3 g/kg seed before sowing. When the root rot symptoms start appearing, drenching of affected plant as well as nearby plant with 0.1% carbendazim should be done. Intercropping with mothbean is also recommended in such area. Application of zinc sulphate @ 24 kg/ha. is also helps in reducing the diseases. Seed treatment and soil application of some antagonists like Trichogramma viride, Thrzianum, Gliocladium virens and Pseudomonas fluroescenes have shown promise under experimental conditions.
Leal curl disease caused by Gemini virus has become prominent in the north India. The virus is transmitted by whitefly. Therefore, the crop should be free from the whitefly attack. The insecticides, which control whitfly should be sprayed. Desi cottons are not affected by this disease. Some varieties like LRK-516, LRA-5166, RS-875, LHH-144 are resistant to this disease. These varieties should invariably be grown in leaf curl prone areas.
IPM / IRM Module
  • Seed treatment with Imidacloprid (10 g/kg seed).
  • Application of 5% NSKE.
  • Release of egg parasitoids (Trichogama @ 1.5 lakh and Chrysopa @ 0.5 lakh/ha. between 45-75 days after sowmg.
  • Pheromone traps should be erected to attract male moths of bollworms.
  • Endosulfan 35 EC @ 800 mv per acre
  • Hand collection of grown up larvae and bollworm infested fruiting bodies at regular intervals.
  • Topping of plants should be done to reduce scope of egg laying by bollworms.
Insecticide Resistance Management (IRM)
  • Cotton occupies only 5% of the total cultivable land but consumes more than 55% of the insecticides used in the industry.
  • Insecticide resistance in the cotton bollworm and other pests leads to poor pest control and consequently repeated and indiscriminate application of insecticides. Resistance problem in the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera resulted poor yields, excessive expenditure and thus financial losses thereby leading to farmer suicides in some parts of India in 1987 and 1997.
  • The strategies place emphasis on efficient use of insecticides to conserve the ecosystem for better pest management. These pest management strategies were found to reduce insecticide use by 50-90% with yield increases of 10-25%.
Strategies to manage 'Insecticide resistance in cotton pests'
  • Ensure insecticide use such that resistance is low, natural enemy populations are least disturbed and different groups of chemicals are alternated.
  • Use host plant resistance for sucking pests to avoid insecticide sprays early in the season. Cultivate 'sucking pest tolerant' cultivars.
  • Zero insecticide till 60 days.
  • No 'organophosphates' till 90 days.
  • Use Endosulfan - not beyond 90 days.
  • Biorational eg. HaNPV, neem etc. 'if available' only at 80-90 days.
  • Use Pyrethroids only after 110 days.

Days after sowing

0-60 60-90 80-90 90-110 110-130
Zero spray Endosulfan Biosprays Organo- Pyrethroid phosphate
Picking should be done generally in the morning hours so that the kapas will be free from dust and leaf bits. Bolls with bad opening, yellow stains, insect attacked and rottened should be picked separately. While picking the kapas all the segments should be picked at one time, otherwise fibres will be broken and thus fibre quality will be reduced. After picking, kapas should be dried under shade on a clean drying floor. Seed cotton from the first and last pickings should not be mixed with middle pickings. The middle pickings will be of better quality and fetch higher price. Kapas should be picked dry, free from trash, with no dew on it. Store kapas in damp proof and rat-free room. Store different varieties separately. The first and the last picking are usually of low quality and should not be mixed with rest of the produce. The produce should be graded to ensure proper price. High grade kapas mixed with low grade kapas fetch relatively low price.
Different harvesting machines
15-20 q/ha as rainfed crop and 25-30 q/ha as irrigated crop can be obtained.
Storage management
Dry clean seed kept by maintaining moisture below 8%. Mix crushed neem leaves with seed and store in gunny bags. Gunny bags can also be treated with 5% neem oil.
The cost of production in India varies from Rs 12,170 per hectare in the rainfed area of the central India to as high as Rs 29,360 per hectare in the southern irrigated region. This wide variation shows that the production cost can be reduced in the high cost regions by adopting efficient farm practices. Particularly in India, the adoption of technology has been very slow. This has resulted in increased cost of production as also stagnation in yield. Usage of pesticide is the major variable input component, the share of which can be reduced to a greater extent by adopting proper pest management practices. Concept of integrated pest resistance practices have to be implemented to save cost of cultivation. Low cost of cultivation under organic management ensure high profitability. On farm availability of seed, manures and pest control measures ensures maximum saving in cost of cultivation. Net profit to the farmers depends upon the prevailing market price in the region.
Cotton Profile Package of Practices - Seed Profile

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